A selection of books, films, and recordings by UChicago alumni.
By Paul Betts, AM’89, PhD’95
“Civilization is a term we love to hate,” writes Oxford historian Paul Betts. Freighted with its 18th- and 19th-century history, the word tends to evoke the imperial overtones of European “civilizing missions.” At the end of World War II, with the horrors of the Third Reich in full view, many declared the idea of civilization a shattered illusion. Betts shows, however, that the postwar reconstruction of Europe soon gave new life to civilization as a concept, embraced by liberal proponents of international cooperation, conservative defenders of a Christian West, and a host of others in their search for a new order.
By Bette Howland, AB’55
The late Bette Howland’s debut book, first published in 1974, chronicles her experience as a 31-year-old single mother recovering in the University of Chicago hospital’s psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt by sleeping pills. This new edition of W-3, following Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage: The Selected Stories of Bette Howland (A Public Space Books, 2019), continues the publisher’s commitment to reviving the MacArthur Fellowship–winning author’s once forgotten works. W-3’s reappearance has brought it fresh critical acclaim. “The book feels at once crafted, its prose full of calibrated grace, and startlingly unmediated,” notes the New Yorker.
By Leon R. Kass, LAB’54, SB’58, MD’62
Years before he began teaching his UChicago great books courses on Genesis and Exodus, bioethicist and humanist Leon Kass was a Harvard PhD student who lucked into hearing a rabbi’s inspiring interpretation of Exodus 25–27, on instructions for building the Tabernacle. In writing this sequel to The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis (Free Press, 2003), Kass again draws inspiration from what Exodus has to say about the Tabernacle. The second book of the Hebrew Bible establishes a national narrative for the Israelites and a moral law for their conduct as a community, argues Kass, the Addie Clark Harding Professor
Emeritus of Social Thought and in the College. But Exodus also has a third pillar, embodied in the Tabernacle: a structure where ritual turns everyday life toward the transcendent.
Lyrics, guitar, and executive production by Rami Nashashibi, AM’98, PhD’11
Love is many things on activist Rami Nashashibi’s debut as a recording artist. The founder of Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network blends R&B and hip-hop to craft songs in which love carries the force of not just romantic but also justice-seeking impulses. The single “Mama Please” responds to police violence with a plea for divine mercy, its refrain echoing words George Floyd uttered in the last minutes of his life. Nashashibi calls upon collaborator Drea d’Nur and a team of Grammy-nominated artists to help him deliver a message of love’s healing power.
Edited by Sharon M. Rowley, AM’88, PhD’96
According to Sharon M. Rowley, professor of English at Christopher Newport University, scholars have come to see medieval literature very differently in light of research on the ways scribes, editors, and other intermediaries shaped texts like The Canterbury Tales and Wycliffe’s Bible. This volume honors UChicago associate professor emerita of English Christina von Nolcken’s germinal contributions to that research with essays by some of her former students, including Jenny Adams, AM’94, PhD’00; Matthew Irvin, AB’99; Rosemary O’Neill, AB’00; Andrew Rabin, AM’00, PhD’05; Fiona Somerset, AB’90; and Rowley herself. These scholars track down exemplars of medieval manuscript culture—definitive copies of particular works—and examine the social ideals exemplified in the texts.
Written between 1938 and 1944, the poems in this posthumous collection include meditations on Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Battle of Dunkirk, and other seismic events from a young woman witnessing World War II from the home front—and with a UChicago student’s knowledge of classical literature. Born in 1922 in Chicago to working-class parents of Swedish and Ukrainian-Jewish descent, the late oral historian and New School instructor Joan Wehlen Morrison left behind poetry that captures both the mythic proportions of the WWII years and an intensely inward experience of them. This collection, edited by her daughter, supplements the poet’s reflections in her wartime diaries, also published after her 2010 death.
For additional alumni releases, use the link to the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf at mag.uchicago.edu/alumni-books.